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LaRon Smith's patience & attitude rewarded with Senior Day game - Mar 3, 2017


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DAVID EDOLE
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Laron Smith
Matthew Stevens , Montgomery Advertiser

AUBURN - Laron Smith (203-F-93) certainly didn't transfer to Auburn to sit the bench.

No graduate student transfer has the thought of being a role player not in the normal playing rotation by March but this is the situation Smith found himself in as the calendar flipped to 2017.

Smith, who had been at two low-major programs (Georgia State and Bethune-Cookman) in his four year collegiate career, came to Auburn for his final year of eligibility to be a contributing member of a Power 5 conference program.

'He came here to play, and he wants to play, and he's ready to play,' Pearl said Friday.

Smith even started two days before Christmas and was getting 17.6 minutes of playing time in non-conference play in mid-December. Smith was most known for his one-handed free throw motion that was designed to improve the 28 percent shooting from the charity stripe. For the record, Smith is shooting 15 of 27 (55.6 percent) from the foul line this season at Auburn.

However, then the arrival of Auburn's most acclaimed recruit changed things drastically for Auburn's 6-foot-8 graduate transfer forward. The entrance and clearance of five-star center Austin Wiley cut into both the playing time of Smith and sophomore forward Horace Spencer as the Team USA member was nearly immediately slated into the starting rotation.

'Had Austin Wiley not gotten eligible at mid-semester, which of course, we weren't certain would happen, Laron Smith would be an everyday player for us,' Pearl said Friday. I think (the graduate transfer option) is a great rule. Because I think you should reward somebody, a student athlete that can graduate in three or four years and have the opportunity to transfer.'

With his minutes, production and importance to the on-the-floor product being lessened, Smith continued to find a way to be happy for freshmen teammates Wiley and Anfernee McLemore as Southeastern Conference play began.

'If you believe enough in the process success will come to us,' Smith wrote on in a Twitter message on Feb.16. 'You just have to be willing to see it through to the end.'

Suddenly Smith found himself playing single-digit minutes in the next five games and while a lot fifth-year players would mentally check out at best or at worst for the program, express his frustration publicly with the situation. On Jan. 19, Smith decided to use the social media platform of Twitter to express his attitude. As Auburn (17-13, 6-11 in SEC play) began SEC play 0-3 with disappointing losses home losses to Georgia and Ole Miss, an undermanned squad headed to Missouri without forward Danjel Purifoy. At that moment, Smith decided to put his tweet in practical use by giving Auburn 17 minutes, which nearly matched his playing time in the previous three games combined, in a much-needed 77-72 win over Missouri.

As Missouri arrives at Auburn Arena Saturday, Smith will get a chance to be honored as one of four seniors that also includes T.J. Dunans, Ronnie Johnson and Devin Waddell before the 2:30 p.m. tip on SEC Network.

'I had five or six of my underclassmen come into my office (Thursday) and ask to make a visit with me,' Pearl said. 'We talked about a couple of things, but one of the biggest things on their mind was they wanted to make sure I was going to start the seniors in this last game. Throughout my career, I haven't always consistently done it. I thought it was a really good sign for a team - that one brother was looking out for another brother in spite of the frustration. I was really pleased with that.'

Missouri (7-22, 2-15 in SEC) has lost five straight games since winning two of the last three contests.

Smith continues to use his Twitter page to encourage more attendance at Auburn Arena, send out inspirational messages to teammates and show commitment to a program and campus he'd never been a part of until this past fall.

'Patience is not the ability to wait, but how you act while you're waiting,' Smith tweeted on Jan. 19.

According to Pearl's comments on Tuesday, Smith is on track to get his master's degree in July and has 'accomplished a lot of what he wanted to' in his one academic year at Auburn.

Possibly more than anything, Pearl recognizes Smith hasn't been a problem since seeing his minutes decline in what will be his final few college basketball games.

'I didn't see that (tweet) necessarily, but it doesn't surprise me, because LaRon has been a really good teammate,' Pearl said Friday. 'I've got a lot of respect for the way LaRon stayed right and stayed ready. He will contribute before the season is out again.'

  




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